(This piece was originally published on October 26, 2018 by the Newton County Enterprise.)

Following Natural Prairie Dairy’s resubmission of its permit to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) for a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) on historic Beaver Lake, more than 250 citizens turned out Oct. 20 to sign a petition opposing the proposed operation.

Protect the Kankakee River Basin (PKRB), an organization of concerned citizens behind the petition and a Go Fund Me drive to oppose the project, has been working to raise awareness about potential hazards the CAFO may have for air, water, and property value.

Kim Ferraro, an attorney for the Hoosier Environmental Council, says that residents “have good reasons for concern given that the proposed site is within the former Beaver Lakebed—one of the most environmentally sensitive areas of Indiana—and the shifting claims of Natural Prairie Dairy (NPD) on the use of ‘innovative technology’ to process the massive amount of manure that will be generated at the CAFO.”

The citizens’ petition against the organic dairy will be delivered to the Newton County Commissioners and the Board of Zoning Appeals, which granted Natural Prairie Dairy a special zoning exception. PKRB hopes the petition and associated legal challenges will result in the Board of Zoning Appeals taking a second look at the dairy and rescinding the special exemption. Along with Natural Prairie Dairy’s new IDEM permit comes a mandatory period of public comment in which citizens can voice any concerns they have with the project. That period lasts until November 15th, though Attorney Ferraro has filed for a 60-day extension to that period and for IDEM to hold an information meeting in Lake Village.

PKRB steering committee member Jeanette Jaskula states, “Concerned citizens can make a significant difference by writing IDEM to lobby for an informational meeting and an extension to the comment period. With the length and complexity of the new permit, the current time period simply is not sufficient. This is our region’s air and water we are talking about. If that doesn’t deserve our utmost care and attention, I don’t know what does.” Citizens can direct requests for that extension and informational meeting, as well as other comments, to IDEM officials Mitchell Halcomb (mhalcomb@idem.in.gov) and Joe Williams (jwilliams@idem.in.gov).

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